C. JEMAL HORTON
MOUNT PLEASANT — Jody Barbee already knows what it’s like to walk in the footsteps of legends.
Sure, in 2019 he already had two state championships under his belt when he became the men’s basketball coach at his alma mater, Mount Pleasant High, but he was also entering a position once held by two of the most esteemed leaders to wear whistles. in Cabarrus County Gyms: Scott Brewer and Andy Poplin.
Now, Barbee is doing it again.
It was announced Tuesday that Barbee will take over as Mount Pleasant’s athletic director. He will continue in his role as basketball coach of the Tigers through the end of the season, and then transition to the full-time CEO chair.
The list of legends is also extensive when it comes to the history of Mount Pleasant’s athletic director, but Barbee is fearless and eager for the opportunity.
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“These are some really big shoes to fill,” Barbee told the Independent Tribune. “You go from one of the greatest from Larry Honeycutt to Gary Calamari to Phil Furr and then Brad Hinson. It’s a great moment.
Barbee will succeed Hinson, who recently took a job as the athletics district for Rowan-Salisbury Schools.
Mount Pleasant is also losing its principal, Russ Snyder, to RSS, as he was named executive director of high schools for that system.
Hinson has been CEO of Mount Pleasant since 2019, when he replaced Chris Shinn in the role. Under Hinson, Mount Pleasant saw upgrades to several sports facilities, including new surfaces for the soccer field and tennis and basketball courts.
Barbee is ready to take his turn leading one of the best track and field positions in the county. He feels he’s ready for it in more ways than one.
He’s a former star athlete for the Tigers and has gotten to know some of the more intricate parts of the department in recent years, having served as an assistant CEO since becoming a basketball coach.
But most of all, this is home, where Barbee grew up as a preacher’s son and where he decided to raise his own family, including during the nine years he served as head coach at Cox Mill High School.
It just feels… right, he said.
“It was kind of my dream job years ago,” Barbee said. “At one point I wanted to come back and coach basketball, but the athletic director has always been the ultimate goal for me. And being in Mount Pleasant, that’s home, and that’s where I wanted to be because I know the tradition here. I graduated here and know how important Tiger athletics are to this community.
“In the back of my mind, you always think, ‘Mount Pleasant would always be a good place to (be a CEO). I live two or three minutes from the school.’”
However, Barbee was taken aback by how quickly his dream job appeared.
Hinson was respected and highly sought after across the state for his skills. He had AD stops in Union County and Cox Mill, and took and then turned down jobs in West Cabarrus and Cary Green Hope before arriving in Mount Pleasant.
Barbee said he figured someone else would come calling Hinson with a big pay raise, but didn’t realize it would be coming so soon.
But a few weeks ago, Hinson let it be known that he was headed to Rowan County. Barbee said he expressed interest in the job to Snyder and emails were sent to other Mount Pleasant staffers to see if any of them also wanted it.
“They did the interviews on Friday and let us know they’d make a decision by Monday,” Barbee said. “I met Snyder on Monday around lunchtime and they offered me a seat back to class. I will teach a class and do AD duties for the rest of the day.
Cabarrus County athletic director Bryan Tyson has also given his blessing to the hire, Barbee said, and now he’s in a new role.
Barbee joins one of his former Mount Pleasant teammates, Robert Machado of Northwest Cabarrus, as AD at Cabarrus County.
For now, Barbee’s job will be similar to current Cox Mill AD Ty Johnson, who concurrently handles men’s basketball coaching duties for the Chargers through the conclusion of the 2022-23 season.
Under the circumstances, Barbee said he wouldn’t have wished it otherwise. After all, he took his new job a week into the basketball season, and he felt it would be unwise to walk off the court and try to hire a new coach at such a critical juncture.
“I’m going to finish this season off,” Barbee said. “This will be my last ride. I will have finished. I’m no longer the basketball coach, effective as soon as we’re done. They will only be direct athletic director duties. The next couple of months will be busy as I adjust to work, but I have good help in place, basketball and AD. I will be OK. It will just be long days.
Had he been told to make a choice, Barbee isn’t so sure how things would have played out.
“I think if he had come to them and said I had to make a decision between quitting basketball now and doing the AD job, it would have been a much tougher decision to make because this is a really good group of guys,” Barbee said. whose team is 2-0. “I really like coaching them. But they said it wouldn’t be right to give me the job and then say, “Hey, you have to give up basketball,” and the season has already started. It’s really not fair to those guys.
Four starters returned to the Tigers basketball team this season, one of which was his son, Bo.
In 2019, Barbee left his job at Cox Mill, where he built the team into a national powerhouse and coached future stars Wendell Moore Jr. (NBA’s Duke University and Minnesota Timberwolves) and Leaky Black (North Carolina), because ha wanted to spend “daddy” time watching Bo compete in both soccer and basketball.
But when the opportunity unexpectedly arose to replace George Walker (now at North Stanly) as head coach, Barbee decided to return to the bench.
The upside was that he would be working with Hinson, under whom he had been assistant AD at Cox Mill, and coach Bo, a rising freshman.
Now, just over three years later, is Barbee ready to quit basketball for good? Especially when he didn’t get to coach Bo next season, his last year?
“I am,” Barbee said. “Even when I left a few years ago, in my mind, I was already ready to let him go because I had done more than most people ever could if someone had coached 25, 30 years which I did in short span over there (at Cox Mill). It was the talent we had and the children we had.
“At that point, I was at peace with it, and I’m at peace with it now because I knew this was the job I wanted. And if I don’t strike now, I might not get a chance to strike because I want to retire as athletic director. I think I have another 17 years left and I would like to stay another 17 years and finish it and finish it.
Barbee said he’s in no rush to name his successor with the basketball team. He said he’ll see who comes in as Snyder’s replacement, and then they’ll sit down and discuss options.
Hinson is expected to leave Mount Pleasant by Dec. 9, and Barbee will continue to work during school suspension through the end of the semester. After that, he will take a foundation course in Career and Technical Education and establish himself as CEO, where he will follow in the footsteps of those other successful men who have gone before him.
He feels he had the necessary preparation, from his early stint as assistant to Brian Knab at Cox Mill (now at Waxhaw Marvin Ridge) and later with Hinson at both the great Concord school and Mount Pleasant. Along the way, he built relationships with retirees Calamari and Furr (now director of communications and public information for Cabarrus County Schools).
Barbee said he’s lucky to accept such a challenge.
“I think if this job had been publicly posted, if nobody internally wanted this job, I promise you they would have had 75 applicants for the job,” Barbee said. “I’ve always thought Mount Pleasant was one of the greatest communities and schools to be a part of.”
And those legendary steps?
“To have those kids establish the legacy of this school is great,” Barbee said. “Larry got his hands on the athletic facilities at a new school and did a phenomenal job setting things up, and then Gary came in and took matters into his own hands and did everything that he’s done over the years. I had a close relationship with those guys, and Gary and I still talk occasionally.
“I went to school with Phil and I think Phil carried on the same legacy. He and Brad were trendsetters with the social media stuff and stepping up their game in the athletic world. I have both of those guys that I can really count on. I feel like Brad came in when we were having some slack and he really turned this schedule around. Financially and athletically, I think he’s in the best shape he’s been in years.
“I have some really big shoes to fill. I don’t think I could ever fill them, really. All I can do is do my best and try to make those guys proud of how I run things.